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The Party of Big Business

National Review‘s Ramesh Ponnuru has one of the better election post-mortems [1] out there, and I think it ties into some of the themes running through my piece earlier this week on how to understand Patrick J. Buchanan’s political thinking and career [2].

After running through a compendium of indicators that the GOP has become a weak party (lost popular vote in five of six presidential elections, never achieves a hold on the Senate, etc), Ponnuru comes to the point that the upheaval of the late ’60s that tilted so many Southerners and ethnic Catholics into the GOP’s presidential coalition never resulted in these middle-class and working-class white voters trusting the GOP with their economic interests.

What they did not do is make the Republicans the party of middle-class economic interests. Most Americans associated the party with big business and the country club, and did not agree with its impulses on the minimum wage, entitlement programs, and other forms of government activism designed to protect ordinary people from cold markets. Americans came to be skeptical of government activism mainly when they thought it was undermining middle-class values (as they thought welfare undermined the work ethic). And even when voters thought Republicans were better managers of the economy in general, they thought the GOP looked out for the rich rather than the common man.

Precisely. While the GOP successfully internalized the cultural backlash of the 1960s, they never actually adopted the economic interests of this social base. And that is why it seemed so tin-eared to appeal to this base at the 2012 GOP convention as if they were all heroic entrepreneurs held back by government red-tape.

Wrong. Most of the GOP base are people that look for employment as a means to providing for a family. They see their economic interests threatened by Republicans who want to expose their retirements to the stock market, who want them to pay for their health-care out of their take home wages, who give massive bailouts to connected corporate interests, while singing about self-reliance to the working man. Social issues and the Great Society pushed enormous blocs of the New Deal coalition into the GOP. Eventually this transformation of the party transformed some of the people in it. The GOP used to be in league with family planners and the birth control movement, now it is mostly pro-life. But weirdly even as this new coalition changed the GOP on social issues, the party remained fixed to its 1930s style anti-New Dealism.

Now Ponnuru has disagreed (to put it mildly) with the remedies that Buchanan recommended in the 1990s. But it was impossible to read Ponnuru’s post-election analysis and not think of the 1992 Republican convention in which the bulk of Buchanan’s speech was about reconnecting with “conservatives of the heart,” the middle-class people who formed the New Majority. This would be the first of the six elections that Republicans would be unable to win a popular vote. After describing factory workers threatened by globalization, and a secretary who recently lost her job, Buchanan said:

My friends, these people are our people. They don’t read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke, but they come from the same schoolyards and the same playgrounds and towns as we came from. They share our beliefs and our convictions, our hopes and our dreams. These are the conservatives of the heart. They are our people. And we need to reconnect with them. We need to let them know we know how bad they’re hurting. They don’t expect miracles of us, but they need to know we care.

As Ponnuru points out, the overwhelming majority of voters say that Republican candidates do not understand people like them. Republicans made fun of Clinton for saying “I feel your pain” about the recession of the early 90s. Well, it worked. So too did George W. Bush’s protest that he was a “compassionate conservative,” although many movement conservatives absolutely hated this rhetorical concession to the fact that average people think of conservatives as ugly frat boys, wild ideologues, and aloof country clubbers.

I am actually surprised Republicans aren’t faring worse. When Republicans are asked how they will create jobs, they reference to-be-signed free trade agreements with South American nations. What does that mean to working-class whites in Ohio, people who might be uncomfortable with Sherrod Brown’s social positions but who voted for him anyway? Does anyone out there seriously hear about a free-trade agreement with Colombia and think “That’ll help us.”

And now, some twenty years later I notice that both parties try to use economic nationalism in their election efforts. Obama hit Romney on outsourcing. Romney promised to punish China for currency manipulation.

Romney’s senses on this issue were underdeveloped for sure. But I’m not seeing solutions from the commentators that recognize the problem either. I’m not sure that I’m convinced that Buchanan-style economic nationalism will enhance the economic standing of middle-Americans. But it makes more sense to me than the cocktail of policies [3] recommended by others who have recognized the problem. It actually is difficult [4] for Republicans to discover policies that accomplish all three goals: 1) satisfy its free-market clerisy 2) actually help people 3) be recognized by those people and earn their gratitude in votes.

So: great diagnosis Mr. Ponnuru. But what’s the treatment?

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#1 Comment By Bryan On November 15, 2012 @ 11:50 am

I should not presume to speak for all 30-somethings out there, but here I go anyway:

Part of the problem is that young people with strong work ethics see what happened to previous generations who worked hard, saved money, and played by the rules. I’m as susceptible to romanticizing the past–probably more so–than anybody, but I try to remind myself always that “Those days led to these days.” So “those days” couldn’t have been that great for anybody, even Pistol Pat. Especially when we’re realistically talking about a mere thirty or forty years ago.

The small northwestern town I live in was once a bastion of white working-class values, a place where young men and even women could make an “honest living” with their hands in lumber mills, construction, commercial fishing, etc. Well, guess what? Many of those guys and gals are now prematurely old (or dead), overweight and ulcerated, and they might own decent homes and some property but they’re certainly not Bush- or Romney-style wealthy, and they are in fact clinging to Medicare or other government subsidies to maintain any sort of dignified lifestyle in their old age, despite well-recognizing the dangers of government dependence.

These American working-class elders were never wild ideologues, but it’s too easy for people of my generation to look at the big picture–we’re not as dumb as we dress, after all–and feel like hard work got them nowhere that we want to be, even if the jobs were available.

I don’t know how to square this circle, but I can tell you that watching these presidential “debates” where major issues like never-ending war, drug policy and imprisonment rates, climate change, etc. are completely ignored by both candidates for the constant sake of “jobs, jobs, jobs” talk is Orwellian and a not-very-funny joke to many young folks who see most entry-level corporate jobs as a flat-out soul-destroying scam.

Young Americans are savvy if not “intellectual,” and they look at a hundred and fifty years of industrialism and think not:

“How can we go back to the 1890’s or the 1950’s?,” but rather:

“We’ve all got more than everything we need in this country already. Why should I spend my life in a factory or a cubicle only to be robbed of it all by some corporate or political baron at the end of my life?”

And maybe, just maybe: “Quo Vadis?”

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 15, 2012 @ 11:53 am

In very real terms? We need to cease communicating and behaving as though capitalism/free trade operate in a vacuum of purity, that unfettered they will cure all our ills.

The problem with that notion is that capitalism and free trade have one inescapable foe —

human beings.

#3 Comment By Wes On November 15, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

The Republican Party has always been more pro- big business relative to the Democratic Party. But the relationships of both parties to Big Business has changed over time. Before the Great Depression, the Republican Party really was the party of the robber barons, while the Democratic Party was the Party of the People. But the political current of the Gilded Age forced even the Democatic Party to often go along with what Big Business wanted. But then the Great Depression came and from the 1930s through the 1970s, both parties became suspicious of the interests of Big Business and unfettered markets. But the Republican Party was still relativley more pro-big business than the Democratic Party. But then the economic downturn of the 1970s occurred which led to the breakdown of the bipartisan liberal consensus, which had already been weakening since the social unrest of the late 1960s. At the same time and probably not entirely coincidentially, Big Business greatly increased its lobbying efforts. This led both parties to go in a more pro-big business direction, but the Republican Party went even more so. In the four decades or so since the ideological realignment of the two parties began, both parties’ donors and activists have spent much more on social issues compared with economic issues than had occurred in previous eras. But this difference in political issue spending has been most pronounced in the Democratic Party. For the Republicans, political spending has been roughly equally split between social issues and economic issues. But the Democrats have spent a whopping 80% of their money on social issues and only about 20% on economic issues. This is a major reason that the Republicans have largely won the economic argument, but the Democrats have largely won the culture. I would say that a major reason that the Democrats’ political issue spending has been so lopsided in favor of social issues as opposed to economic issues is because of the divergent economic interests of the modern Democratic Party’s two main constituencies: cosmopolitan whites and minorities. Cosmopolitan whites are relatively affluent and educated, while minorities are disproportionately poor. Now of course, minorities are relatively socially conservative as compared to cosmopolitan whites, but most of the Democratic Party’s rich donors are socially liberal whites. And abortion and gay marriage aren’t the only social issues. Other social issues important to the modern Democratic Party inclue affirmative action and other policies designed to advance the interests of minorites, especially social welfare spending. Social welfare spending before welfare reform wasn’t designed primarly to act as a safety net for the poor in general, but to act as a hand out to poor blacks to make up for slavery and segragation. This is a major reason that many consevative Democrats became Republicans.

#4 Comment By Oso Politico On November 15, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

What is the treatment to what problem?

There is the political problem, and the solution is for the Republican party to become more like the democrats.

And then there are the stuctural problems facing the US, which require unpopular measures: Reduce the size and scope of the Federal Government – across the board.

As very few seem disposed to face those problems, the two parties will continue to pander to the vox populi as the nation rolls on down the road to Hell.

#5 Comment By Jim On November 15, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

The treatment is for the GOP to be all right (meaning correct, not opposite of left) on economic issues that affect the middle class, not half right as it is now.

Here is what the GOP has right:

– Generally lower income taxes for the upper-middle/lower-upper classes. Really, the capitulation of some here on the tax issue is frightening. Raising taxes on those making over $250K per year absolutely will have a chilling effect on entrepreneurs/small business, who still employ most middle-class employees in America, and of whom job creation efforts are the most elastic with respect to income tax rates.

– Single payor health care. Again, mostly because of how Obamacare is funded, the burden hits small business and entrepreneurs the hardest, chilling job growth. Having more affordable employer-provided health care (which is a pipe dream under Obamacare anyway, but we’re asssuming arguendo here) is a small consolation if you don’t have employment.

– Deregulation. More and more byzantine regulations create a competitive advantage for big business vis a vis small business. It affects the bottom lines of both, to be sure, but big business has the overhead and back office weight to devote to developing systems to comply, while small businesses don’t.

– Expanded private causes of action for employees. The Lily Ledbetter Act is pure pandering to plaintiff attorneys, and indirectly, low-information female voters. All it does is give fair pay litigants a much longer statute of limitations with which to file their mostly hectoring claims.

– Illegal Immigration. I personally don’t think that the effect is a large one, but even if the effect is a small one, immigration can only harm the lower and middle-class by creating downward pressure on compensation.

Here is what the GOP has wrong:

– Being anti-tax even on the state and local levels. It seems there are no federalists left in the GOP any more. If anything, the structure of tax payments should be more pyramidal than the extremely inverted pyramid that we have now.

– Corporate welfare. This really is a no-brainer. Subsidies and special tax breaks for businesses, whether pie-in-the-sky green “jobs” like Solyndra and their ilk or garden variety R&D subsidies should be DOA for the GOP. Heck, if you must subsidize American business, do it in the form of tax breaks for companies that un-outsource jobs from overseas.

– Opposition to means testing for social programs. Uber-rich seniors shouldn’t get Social Security or health benefits if they can’t afford it. Just as one example, neither should rich parents get federal aid for horse riding therapy for their autistic kids (assuming arguendo that the federal government should be funding horse riding for autistic kids in the first place, of course).

On the wrong list, the left is completely in bed with the GOP on the latter two issues, of course, and the latter two issues would tend to starve the GOP of campaign cash in the event of the former and votes in the event of the latter.

#6 Comment By Adam On November 15, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

Where to begin?
1)Economics-When did Adam Smith’s views on the necessity of equitable involvement of Labor in the proceeds of production become Marxism to the Right? The majority of the people work hard at JOBS, they are Labor, not Capital. Learn to represent their economic interests as well.
2)Regulation-learn to differentiate between regulation that imposes barriers to entry and subsidizes existing business interests through legislation(BAD) and regulation that protects the populace from environmentally unsound practices(GOOD). Railing against all regulatory efforts is counterproductive.
3) Champion Liberty-freedom to worship how you want(inclusivity of ALL faiths), recognize the War on Drugs is a waste of resources- fiscal, material, and human, war is a last resort, not a diplomatic policy, if you value life, speak up against drone warfare in other countries, if you value liberty, speak up against the use of drones in our airspace, and get rid of the decidely unpatriotic Patriot Act.
4)Recognize and celebrate diversity-with the understanding that there are underlying conservative values inherent in all groups.

#7 Comment By gcochran On November 15, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

“job creation efforts are the most elastic with respect to income tax rates.”

I suspect that you haven’t read the tax code.

#8 Pingback By Republicans in a Changing Country – NYTimes.com On November 15, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

[…] without touching the rest of the party platform. If you’re socially conservative and populist but skeptical of Wall Street and big business, then you’ve probably argued the party’s biggest mistake was to nominate a plutocrat […]

#9 Comment By cka2nd On November 15, 2012 @ 3:33 pm


Obamacare is not single payer health insurance but an insurance company-preservation scam. Unfortunately, the establishments of both parties are committed to not only preserving the private health insurance but, at least in the GOP’s case, largely deregulating the industry. There are loads of better options in other countries – some relying on private insurers and others not, some relyign on private providers and others on a public system – that we could adapt to the U.S. or on a state-by-state basis, but allowing private insurerers to continue calling the shots is an economic and social disaster.

As long as wages are held stagnant or actually reduced, more and more people are going to turn to the courts to try to get a fair shake. What’s wrong with people getting the same pay for doing the same job? And why should we limit citizen’s access to the courts in advance?

Sorry, but means testing is a terrible idea. It may not be fair for Pete Peterson to get SSN and Medicare, but if we start means testing them, they will become stigmatized as programs for the “underserving” poor and will go on the chopping block. Sometimes, realpolitik is more right than fairness.

I’m surprised that you didn’t address trade policy but not at all surprised that you ignored unions. So-called free trade is a rigged game, and nothing has driven down wages like union-busting in both the private and public sector. 25 years ago, we were told that we had to bring industrial wages in line with those of the rest of the private sector – And how did that work out? – and now we’re being told the same thing about public sector workers, as if those in the private sector are adequately and fairly compensated. Utter madness, and a huge blind spot for conservatives who say they want well-paying jobs.

#10 Comment By Geoff Guth On November 15, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

“Reduce the size and scope of the Federal government”

This is often stated as the solution to our problems, but always, always rejected by politicians in office, R or D. Have you ever thought why?

I think it’s because, while business owners hate the burdens regulations impose, and while everyone, but especially the wealthy, hate taxes, average people, middle- and working-class types like a lot of what the federal government does.

They like protection from the free market. They like the worst excesses of capitalism, from polluting rivers to endangering workers, reined in. They like basic protection from the vagaries of life, in the form of Social Security and Medicare and free or inexpensive education or unemployment insurance.

Government does not grow simply to grow government. Every federal agency, every rule and regulation, every government bureaucrat was put in place for a reason, either to address a specific problem or prevent a specific danger. Often government does not act effectively, but simply eliminating government functions means the citizenry is then exposed to that problem or danger (and it’s usually one that the average citizen cannot adequately face on his or her own) all over again.

#11 Comment By Jim On November 15, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

Sorry, but means testing is a terrible idea. It may not be fair for Pete Peterson to get SSN and Medicare, but if we start means testing them, they will become stigmatized as programs for the “underserving” poor and will go on the chopping block. Sometimes, realpolitik is more right than fairness.

Your point is a valid one, but do you really believe that they are not already similarly stigmatized? This isn’t the 1920s or 1930s, after all. I think you would get broad buy-in these days that there should be a social safety net. To me the greater stigma comes from the overwhelming debt load stemming from the seemingly constant explosion in the entitlements themselves.

I’m surprised that you didn’t address trade policy but not at all surprised that you ignored unions.

1) It was not meant to be an exhaustive list. Certainly tarriffs, if that’s what you are espousing by referencing trade policy, could be a part of the solution if crafted and used correctly. Care should be taken to avoid creating an all-out trade war, of course. Trade war can only too easily become real war, after all.

2) Unions are a dinosaur, frankly, and more a part of the problem than a part of the solution. Basically, cka2nd, the same logic that you use to criticize means testing (i.e. making entitlement programs more unpopular) can easily be used to tar unions, which aren’t exactly a paragon of popularity these days either. The government putting its thumb on the scales in favor of unions is what enabled them to negotiate far-too-labor friendly CBAs like those that bankrupted the auto industry and led to large scale outsourcing. Even if you are a fan of unions, strengthening them in the current tax/incentive/political environment will only increase the jobs moving from the US overseas.

#12 Comment By Jim On November 15, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

Many of those guys and gals are now prematurely old (or dead), overweight and ulcerated, and they might own decent homes and some property but they’re certainly not Bush- or Romney-style wealthy, and they are in fact clinging to Medicare or other government subsidies to maintain any sort of dignified lifestyle in their old age, despite well-recognizing the dangers of government dependence.

many young folks who see most entry-level corporate jobs as a flat-out soul-destroying scam

Bryan, you make some good points about the loss of well-paying middle-class and working-class jobs, but your good points are lost thanks to the bolded portions above and the – pardon me – whininess about entry-level jobs.

If the standard for working-class or middle-class success is Bush or Romney wealth, then we might as well throw in the towel as a society. Decent homes and some property isn’t quite “let them eat cake”, after all, but instead smacks of class jealousy.

And gee, it would be nice if everyone could feel totally fulfilled by every job they hold, but have we really become so averse to sacrifice that it is the government’s problem that entry-level (or factory, or farming) jobs aren’t fulfilling?

#13 Comment By collin On November 15, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

I say conservatives should read the history of the consumers revolution in the late 1970s and start cheer ing the free market success of Carter and Reagan. They should thinking about how the airline deregulation of 1978 long term changed the industry and lowered prices dramatically. (Inflation adjusted 60% lower from what I remember.) Read about the free market of beer producing material (basically Carter signed after what was probably a 30 minute briefing.) to all consumers and remember that Coors beer was considered premium back in the late 1970s. The second highest grossing movie from 1977 used the illegal transport of Coors beer as a MacGuffin.

Now think about how many concentrated industries there are. Do power companies need monopolies anymore?, Free Nurse Practioners, Free dental Hygeniest (ACA does a little of this), Free Pharmamist, Have more drugs (including the pill) over the counter, and push for legalization for marijuana.

#14 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 16, 2012 @ 10:35 am

Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote
“They see their economic interests threatened by Republicans who want to expose their retirements to the stock market, who want them to pay for their health-care out of their take home wages, who give massive bailouts to connected corporate interests, while singing about self-reliance to the working man.”

This assessment is correct and really at issue, save this the previous administrations’ policy exposed their healthcare to stock market risks as well. What is interesting is that the current HCI is just that — out of pocket insurance policies.

I was an advocate of the assive deregulation policies that prevented the huge media mergers and expanding the where and how financial markets could make money. I did not know that they would launch themselves into an insane practice of employing physicists to design market analysis based on nonexistent money, nonexistent products dealing in transactions in which they lrisked twenty to the available dollar —— I would put that Genie right back in the bottle. The best and the brightest are no better at self control, self regulation than the average seven year old after eating every cookie in the jar, wonders where they went – but expects you to replenish the jar, but instead of reminding him/her that you removed the lid believing he would manage his cookies more effeciently, one zips all over the neighborhood borrowing everyone else’s cookie to replenish his jar. Upon returning home one discovers not only was the cookie jar raided — but the cupboards are empty —–

No, no more deregulation. maybe aftyer they learn basic math.

#15 Comment By john personna On November 16, 2012 @ 10:43 am

I’d recommend Clayton Christensen’s [5] as cross-reading. He comes at “financialization” from the angle of innovation, or lack thereof.

America today is in a macroeconomic paradox that we might call the capitalist’s dilemma. Executives, investors and analysts are doing what is right, from their perspective and according to what they’ve been taught. Those doctrines were appropriate to the circumstances when first articulated — when capital was scarce.

But we’ve never taught our apprentices that when capital is abundant and certain new skills are scarce, the same rules are the wrong rules. Continuing to measure the efficiency of capital prevents investment in empowering innovations that would create the new growth we need because it would drive down their RONA, ROCE and I.R.R.

#16 Comment By libertarian jerry On November 16, 2012 @ 10:58 am

The Republican Party,going back to Lincoln,was always a Hamiltonian Mercantile pro Big Business political party. After all,Lincoln himself was a Railroad Corporate lawyer. But with the modern era,and the socialist genie out of the bottle,the Republican Party had no choice but to embrace the modern Welfare State or be voted out of existence. The problem is not the Republican Party,but a voting majority of the American people who have figured out how to live off the largess of the productive taxpayers in the American Economic Class. Regulations,taxes and “top down” control and interference in the American Market Economy,by the state, is best handled and even influenced by large corporate entities. Most of the Anti Trust,government regulations,environmental guidelines,tax policies etc. are penned by corporate lobbyists and government employees influenced by large corporations. Even most of Obamacare was penned by corporate interests. What has happened in America is the merger of large corporations and government into an entity called fascism. The United States of America ran off of its Constitutional rails long ago. With so many voting people dependent on government for either their employment or daily bread it will probably be impossible to get that constitutional train back on the tracks. With that said,the Republican Party will just limp along posing as a “protector” of individual rights,but in the end be just as destructive,maybe even more so, then the Democrats. Finally,the only chance the Republican Party and America had was the election of Ron Paul to the Presidency. And of course,the Republican insiders made sure that was not going to happen. So,what goes around comes around. What a shame.

#17 Comment By Jim P On November 16, 2012 @ 11:53 am

I think Bryan’s overriding point is the futility and dis-incentive of “playing by the rules” only to have the rule-makers rob you of your hard-earned wealth through corporate cronyism and political greed.

A recent TAC article referenced “fairness.” There is none in working America today, and that must change if we are to restore national prosperity as opposed to more wealth for the wealthy.

#18 Comment By cka2nd On November 16, 2012 @ 2:48 pm


Social Security and Medicare are still popular programs, as we saw with the tea Partiers who demanded that the government keep its hands off their Medicare (I couldn’t resist). I wonder if the reason we’re always hearing about Medicaid fraud rather than Medicare fraud is because the former is for the poor while the latter is for seniors, or is there really more fraud in the one than the other?

Your remards regarding government debt and union contracts are both incorrect. Medicare and Medicaid are both in trouble because of the rising costs of health care. Average economic growth, eliminating the upper income limit for payroll taxes and reining in health care costs by getting rid of the private insurance industry’s armies of back office bueraucrats would leave all three programs in the pink of health.

Labor costs were 15% of the cost of a car for the Big Three, and that was what drove them into bankruptcy? I’m guessing the mountains of debt that racked up with mergers and acquisitions and jacking up their stock prices played a much bigger role. Unions and workers need to fight to get rid of the tax incentives to ship jobs overseas, and to raise tariffs without triggering full-fledged trade wars (heresy with my fellow Trotskyists, but TAC has won me over on this issue), but those alone won’t ensure that workers finally start geting a fair shake.

#19 Comment By sglover On November 16, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

Bryan —
Beautifully put. Really.

Just once I’d like to hear a politician, or any of the remoras surrounding them, ask whether **time** (as in leisure) might be at least as important, nowadays, as things. There’s something deeply bent in a society that offers ever cheaper, ever more dazzling distractions, while the really elemental needs can only be met by enduring “jobs” that suck up a quarter of your life, and very often aren’t even worth doing at all. And of course, for many people the treadmill doesn’t even provide the basics any more….

But you’ll never hear that from our “leaders”. As you imply, keeping the conversation on everything **but** external reality is their primary skill.

#20 Comment By Derek F On November 16, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

The Repubs need to embrace a true liberty agenda and stop paying lipservice to bland talking points that they, and the voters, know they don’t believe in.

How about explaining that the government doesn’t have the right to tell anyone who to marry or what they can put into their bodies; how about explaining that’s it’s immoral, and downright criminal, to steal someone’s labor through taxation and spend it on unconstitutional policies and programs; how about explaining the Founders’ foreign policy position of non-intervention (i.e. minding our own business) while proposing drastic cuts to the military; how about explaining the unconstitutionality of entitlements; and how about putting a system in place that will allow current entitlement recipients to receive the benefits they were promised while allowing others (i.e. the young among us) to opt out.

The preceding are just a few “planks” of a liberty agenda that should be thoughtfully and forthrightfully explained to the masses and implemented. If you don’t believe it / they have appeal just look at the movement Ron Paul has inspired.

#21 Comment By Dakarian On November 17, 2012 @ 4:28 am

Jim’s reply to Bryan does bring up a good point: we tend to put very low stock on anything other than the very well to do. Many don’t want to just start at the bottom and work their way up.

I will bring up two items, though. First, Bryan’s description of those seniors includes them receiving government services to maintain their lifestyle. Given that being ‘dependent on the government’ is considered a failure state for many, it helps to show his disdain obf the past generation’s lifetime of work ends by being just another government dependent.

Myself, who don’t see that story in that mindset, view something similarly painful: they worked all their lives and, in repayment, they get to maintain their lifestyle only due to the very government assistance that some plan to dismantle. If those people succeed, doesn’t that mean this generation will be working just as hard just to fall short at the end?

Either way it makes you wonder ‘what’s the point’ sometimes.

The other point is this: For many Americans, the Entry level job that leads to a sustainable career is of the same boat as 5 cent Coke. Instead, the ‘entry level job’ results in several years of stagnation in the same job and income or a layoff. To them, success involves using jobs as methods to clear a checklist: 2 years experience here, check, then leave. New standard income settled, check, now look the same work with good benefits, check and switch positions.

It’s cold and shows a mistrust in the company, but is done since the expectation holds that staying will result in being replaced with someone cheaper or simply closed down.

So put them both together. You get a lifetime of abusing companies to stay one step ahead of their own abuse, only to spend your final years in a state not unlike those in Welfare.

I’m not sure most people have put them together. I’m glad if that’s true, since I think if THAT mentality kicks in we’ll have a western version of Japan’s NEET crisis.

To put it short. Many don’t trust government, but they really don’t trust Business. The vote then goes to Lessor Evil.

#22 Comment By David On November 17, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

Get finance off our backs and we will be fine.

#23 Comment By Chris in Appalachia On November 18, 2012 @ 6:44 am

“I’m not sure that I’m convinced that Buchanan-style economic nationalism will enhance the economic standing of middle-Americans.”

Well, it probably would have enhanced it when foresighted PJB was saying it 15 or 20 years ago. But now that our factories have closed (and been demolished), jobs outsourced, and the industrial infrastructure has disentigrated, it is probably too late.

#24 Comment By Sean Scallon On November 18, 2012 @ 9:01 am

Pat dreamed of essentially recreating the Democratic Party of his youth into the Republican Party of the 1970s and 80s and 90s. Each time his vision was frustrated either by Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Bush I Administration, the party establishment, etc. until it ultimately forced him out of the party altogether in 1999.

There are many reasons as to why but they all come down to the fact the party elites may well have wanted the votes of evangelicals and Reagan Democrats and so forth but never wanted their input. So long as they could keep them culturally agitated against Democrats that was all they needed to pursue their economic agenda which hurt these very groups to the point where now vanishing on the political landscape.

Take abortion for example. Abortion becoming a national issue helped the GOP immensely. That’s why John Roberts is there as Chief Justice to make sure Roe vs. Wade is not repealed. It’s one of the biggest cons in political history.

#25 Comment By Thomas Sm On November 18, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

Sean is right that social issues like abortion have helped the GOP greatly, which is why all the talk now in more élitist media and Beltway-political circles blaming evangelicals and immigration for Romney’s loss are bonkers.

Let’s look at GOP policies and how popular they are, according to opinion polls:
1) Social issues
“pro-life”on abortion: 35-55% support depending on how you ask the question
traditional marraige: 45-55%
anti-illegal immigration: 80%-ish
anti-blanket amnesty: there is a lot of trickery in polling on immigration, so we have to say about 30-80%
do not require companies to provide free birth control: 45-55%
anti-drug policy: 45-55%

2) Economic & Foreign Policy issues
maintain Bush tax cuts on wealthier Americans: 20-30%
preserve and expand ‘free trade’: 30-40%
support the ‘Syrian’ rebels militarily (Romney’s position): 10-20%
turn Medicare into a voucher system: 25-50%
privatise Social Security: 20-40%
prioritise budget deficit over economy: 20-30%
shorten length of time you can get unemployment, food stamps: 10-35%
TARP-style bailouts: 10-35%
attack Iran ASAP: 20-40%
increase ‘defence’ spending greatly: 25-40%
give all foreign students who graduate at an American university automatic permanent residency: (here I am just guessing: 20-30%?)

It seems to me the average support for GOP social/cultural policies, which, yes, I don’t think they ever intend to do anything about anyway (but they campaign on them), is in the 50% neighbourhood (yeah, even on drugs). Support for other policies is in the 30% range.

Hmm…I think Buchanan is obviously vindicated…except on his new apparent line to always support the GOP no matter what. Things will only get better with a Third Party challenge. In principle, the GOP would do well to become more like they used to be…a party supporting domestic economic and infrastructural development. But, the country’s economy, and thus the GOP as well, has been taken over by parasitic financial interests (look at the Romney family’s evolution) – so you can’t really do anything with it.

#26 Comment By Bill On November 18, 2012 @ 7:16 pm

Imagine a world where the Ferengi are in charge.

Then call it DC

#27 Comment By RONALD GREEN On November 18, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

How about a Constitutional solution that worked for 200 years until we passed NAFTA? Our troubles started with NAFTA and they can end when we end NAFTA and similar idiotic trade agreements. Except for a two year anomaly during the Depression, tariffs have always protected and maintained a higher standard of living and lower taxes for America’s working and middle classes.
From wikipedia:
“Tariffs in United States history have played major to minor roles in trade policy, political debates and the nation’s economic history. The 1st United States Congress, wanting a straightforward tax that was not too onerous and easy to collect, passed the Tariff of 1790. Like all subsequent tariffs it taxed imported goods at their Ports of entry to raise revenue for the federal government. Treasury agents collected the tariff before goods could be landed, and what became the Coast Guard prevented smuggling. Tariffs were the largest (approaching 95% at times) source of federal revenue until the Federal income tax began after 1913.”
Ronald Green
GOP Congressional candidate
U.S. 3rd District

#28 Comment By Adam On November 19, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

@Tom and Sean,

I’ve never understood why the true Social Conservatives allow themselves to be hoodwinked over and over by the GOP at the national level. It’s all talk and no action and yet they vote their “faith” regardless. My wife’s grandfather was a Pentacostal minister, Social Conservative to the core. That said, he always voted Democrat because, in his words, it was economically better for the average person. Government, in his view, was hired by the people to ensure a fair shake economically, and faith was a separate issue, best administered at the local level. Smart man.

#29 Comment By Dean On November 20, 2012 @ 1:36 am

Nice article, love the last statement. So Mr. Dougherty what is the SOLUTION or Treatment? Everybody seems to have a comment on what is wrong, I have yet to see anybody speak intelligently to solutions. Obviously, I too fall into that category. So why don’t we stop analyzing and start working on solutions, for the good of the country and the “working class”, or for that mater ALL Americans.

#30 Comment By Thomas Sm On November 20, 2012 @ 11:43 am


Though I am not sure ‘faith’ can be administered at the local level, I think I know what you mean (social/cultural issues, assumedly). There is a problem with this, namely, that courts and bureaucracies in the executive branch have made cultural issues national in a way they were not in 1960. Also, there is no sense in voting Democrat now for President or, usually, for Senate (and sometimes, obviously in the House) if you are looking for differences on economic policy.

So, I understand why one would vote only on economic issues some decades ago, but those conditions no longer apply. If all things are equal, I vote on foreign policy, because that seems somehow to correlate best with moral/immoral governance at least within imperial governments like the US. If someone seems to have good social or economic policies, but awful foreign policy, the former are probably political opportunism. Likewise, we see most all third parties have an oppositionist foreign policy, where the Rs and Ds at the national level disagree only slightly on tactics.

#31 Comment By dbriz On November 20, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

First, it would be of great help to the GOP to understand the problem.

Most in the GOP and elsewhere for that matter, believe that US manufacturing has declined precipitously over the past thirty or so years.

T’ain’t so.

John Mauldin had an interesting column a few days ago which laid rest to this idea; Some key points:

The US is still the number one manufacturing nation in the world. Productivity over the last 20 years is up over 50%. We are an exporting powerhouse.

The problem we face is not a new one. We have seen it before in agriculture.

Innovation, technology and efficiency greatly increase the productivity per hour of labor. Hence, more output, fewer jobs.

Today and future jobs will require technical knowledge and marketable skills.

Small businesses will be our future engines of growth.

Political conditions that deter creation and expansion of small businesses (hint: most dem propositions) will merely perpetuate our job dilemma.

Small business equals Main Street business equals jobs for middle class America of all nationalities.

My take on this:

The challenge for the GOP is to transform themselves from the party of Wall Street BIG business to the party of Main Street SMALL business.

To do this they need a quickie divorce from “too big to fail”, marriage to big banking interests and MIC/Wall Street/Corporate cronyism.

They need to find credible messengers (only Ron Paul qualified during the primaries) and they need to find them fast.

#32 Comment By Adam On November 21, 2012 @ 6:36 pm


Definitely agree on the foreign policy angle. On the third party comment, I’m looking for actual grass roots structure at the local level for those options to really take hold. Coming out only for the presidential elections seems like more of a faux protest against the two party plurality, rather than a true effort to change it. Because we’re stuck with what we have for the time being, I really hope the GOP does a full on After Action Review. If they take one lesson from the third party options this year, the distaste for the imperialism in our foreign policy would be a good place to start. Digesting today’s piece on Outsider Conservatism would be another.

#33 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 24, 2012 @ 10:18 am


In the days of your grandfather same open homosexual behavior/acceptance was relegated to one private practices, inconceiveable, much less the notion of homosexuals getting married, in the minds of US citizens. Abortion as a means of legal birth control, nudity, and divorce were the luxuries of hollywood (I exaggerate.). Women did not inundate the workplace as they do today. Mariage was a good thing and happiness was something you made in the marriage as opposed to something marriage was made of — most marriage was about factors that trumped personal happiness. Employment came to the US, it didn’t flee. Global economic competition was nearly the sole domain US. Instantaneuos communication for the general population did not exist.

Democrats and Republicans on these issues and other ethical value models weren’t that far apart. Today the gulf is as wide as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on key social issues.

Parties parted ways on foreign policy and economic issues. Evolution, God, Family, Abortion, HC, education — not big players.

Not until the 1950’s does television unveil some deep US social faults in almost real time. That unveiling was used or abuse as a mechanism for anyone with a social beef. That evolution is what we live and battle about today.

#34 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 24, 2012 @ 10:23 am

Oooops. excuse the name error, Tom
Also Intended for Adam:

Who are social conservatives going to turn to? Keenly aware that traditional values no longer seem to apply, what party better represents their views of the country and seems unwilling to compromise on principles. At least republicans give lip service to the ideas they believe are important.